Constituency says no: Dutton’s nuclear power plans sputter on the launch pad

Peter Dutton’s federal coalition is facing a battle to win over country Australians – and leaders from its own side – for its plan to build nuclear power plants in the regions, as many say they won’t accept the risk or wait a decade for change.

Jun 19, 2024, updated Jun 19, 2024
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is having trouble getti9ng the right political support for his nuclear energy plan. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is having trouble getti9ng the right political support for his nuclear energy plan. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

Dutton has announced his long-awaited energy strategy, including proposed nuclear plants at coal power stations that have closed or are winding down.

Loy Yang Power Station in Victoria’s Gippsland region, Callide and Tarong in Queensland, Port Augusta in South Australia, Collie in Western Australia, and Mount Piper and Liddell in NSW have all been earmarked.

The coalition’s energy statement said the locations had key advantages, including transmission lines, infrastructure and workers.

“That is, we can use the existing poles and wires, along with a local community which has a skilled workforce,” the statement released on Wednesday said.

Australian homes could be powered by nuclear energy by 2035 at the earliest, according to the proposal.

However, crucially, Queensland state opposition leader David Crisafulli – who is tipped to be premier after the October election – said he would not repeal his state’s nuclear prohibition.

“We’ve been very consistent, it’s not part of our plan,” he said. “Peter knows my position on it and there’s no secret about that.”

Premier Steven Miles claimed the prohibitive cost of establishing nuclear energy in Australia would push up power bills.

“That is not to mention how future generations, my kids, your kids will need to manage dangerous radioactive nuclear waste forever,” he said in Cairns.

Gladstone, the closest major centre to Callide, is already transforming into a renewable energy hub, with several large-scale wind, solar and green hydrogen projects across the region.

“Our community is the industrial powerhouse of the nation, we’re getting on with the job of transitioning our economy from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” Gladstone Region councillor Kahn Goodluck said in a statement.

“We don’t need or want expensive, radioactive, nuclear energy here.

“Australia’s energy future isn’t radioactive.”

AGL has already announced plans to repurpose the Liddell site in the Hunter region into an industrial renewable energy hub, including the building of a 500 MW grid-scale battery there.

Locals are already grappling with emotional debate about the environmental impact of renewables, like the destruction of vegetation, Gladstone Conservation Council co-ordinator Anna Hitchcock said.

“We’re getting very frustrated in the regions, in that we’re being told we need to make sacrifices,” Hitchcock told AAP.

“I don’t believe we should sacrifice the last of our intact eco-systems to keep the lights on in the city.”

InQueensland in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said his state’s nuclear prohibition would not be removed under his watch either and suggested the proposal would stymie investment in solar and wind.

“We’ve got $30-odd billion of private capital invested in renewable energy,” he said.

“If all of a sudden you were to introduce nuclear power, that investment is at real risk.”

Victoria’s Latrobe City Council said it recognised diverse energy sources were essential, but the community needed to be consulted on social, economic and environmental factors.

Wendy Farmer, president of Voices of the Valley community group, said there were already several renewable projects on the cards and locals would not accept the risk of a nuclear reactor.

“The coalition are just muddying the ground,” Ms Farmer told AAP.

“It is just not an option: we can’t wait that long … for energy and we need to get on with what we’re doing now.

“Why confuse the energy market?”

Mount Piper Power station, which employs 250 workers in the Lithgow region, is due to close in 2040.

Lithgow mayor Maree Statham said many locals welcomed job security, but the town has long-standing anti-nuclear stance.

“If there’s a change, we’ll have to reassess that at some point no doubt,” Statham said.

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy